How Does Radioiodine Therapy Treat My Child’s Thyroid Disease?

Children have a lot of energy — and they need it for things like playing outside, learning in school, and growing. Their body helps convert the food they eat into energy using a process called metabolism. This process is controlled by a very important organ called their thyroid gland.

Your child’s thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of their lower neck. It is part of the endocrine system. Its job is essential to your child’s wellbeing, and in order to function properly, it needs iodine. If your child’s thyroid gland doesn’t work as it should, they may need radioiodine therapy.

Radioiodine therapy shrinks or kills thyroid cells using radioactive iodine. Because most of the other cells in your child’s body don’t want the iodine, the thyroid gets all of it — making it a very safe way to get their thyroid working properly again.

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Ask A Radiology Child Life Specialist

Phone 402-955-4042 

Make An Appointment

Phone 402-955-6799

What Happens During Radioiodine Therapy?

During radioiodine therapy, your child will take radioiodine in the form of a pill or liquid. Their thyroid will take in most of the iodine in order to treat your child’s thyroid condition.

Your child’s physician may do some scans to determine where the iodine has been absorbed.

You can read more guidelines about radioiodine treatment from Cardinal Health Healthcare Company to learn more about your child’s treatment and what to expect.

What If My Child Needs To Go On A Low Iodine Diet?

In order to prepare for your child’s radioiodine therapy, they need to go on a low iodine diet 2 weeks before the procedure. Because it’s hard to know the exact ingredients that restaurants might use, you may want to avoid eating out during this time. It may be helpful to use a low iodine cookbook to find some recipes to cook at home. A nuclear medicine technologist will call you to help explain the diet and answer any questions you may have.

Foods that contain iodine that your child may need to avoid include:

  • Iodized salt, sea salt, and salty foods
  • All dairy products, such as milk, sour cream, cheese, cream, yogurt, butter, and ice cream
  • Margarine
  • Egg yolks
  • Seafood, such as fish, shellfish, seaweed, and kelp
  • Foods that contain carrageenan, agar-agar, algin, or alginate, which are all made from seaweed
  • Many prepared or cured meats, such as ham, bacon, sausage, or corned beef
  • Fresh chicken or turkey with broth or additives
  • Dried fruit
  • Canned vegetables
  • Commercial bakery products
  • Chocolate
  • Molasses
  • Soy products, such as soy sauce, soy milk, tofu
  • Any vitamins or supplements that contain iodine
  • FD&C red dye #3, which is in many foods or pills that are red or brown, including colas

Foods that are okay for your child to continue eating include:

  • Non-iodized salt, such as kosher salt
  • Egg whites
  • Fresh uncured meat from the butcher
  • Matzo
  • Homemade bread made with non-iodized salt and oil (not soy) instead of butter or milk
  • Most fresh fruits and vegetables — but not too much spinach or broccoli — that have been washed well
  • Frozen vegetables that don’t have high-iodine ingredients, such as regular salt
  • Canned peaches, pears and pineapples
  • Natural unsalted peanut butter
  • Clear sodas
  • Coffee or tea, as long as it’s made with distilled water (with non-dairy creamer)
  • Popcorn popped in vegetable oil or air-popped, with non-iodized salt
  • Sorbet — but remember to check the ingredient list for FD&C red dye #3

If you have questions about medications that may contain iodine, check with your child’s physician. Your child should never discontinue any medication before consulting their physician.

What Happens After My Child’s Radioiodine Therapy?

The radioactive iodine will leave your child’s body through their urine, sweat, and saliva. Your child will need to take some precautions after their radioiodine therapy, such as drinking extra fluids, avoiding traveling, or maintaining extra distance from others.

A nuclear medicine technologist will go over all the necessary restrictions related to the treatment with you over the phone and in-person prior to the treatment taking place. It is very important that these restrictions are followed.

A radiologist or nuclear medicine technologist will fill out a release form from Cardinal Health Healthcare Company (for hyperthyroidism or post-thyroidectomy) that will explain what your child needs to do after their radioiodine therapy.

Do you have more questions related to your child’s radioiodine treatment? Contact the Radiology Child Life Specialist at 402-955-4042 or the Radiology Department at 402-955-5602.

What To Do Next

For Patients

Your child will need an order from a provider to schedule a radiology procedure. Once the order is placed, call 402-955-6799 to schedule the procedure.

For Referring Providers

The Physicians’ Priority Line is your 24-hour link to pediatric specialists at Children’s for referrals, emergency and urgent consults, physician-to-physician consults, admissions, and transport services. Call 855-850-KIDS (5437).

Learn more about referring patients.


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